Recently, a private conversation with a COPA member sought information about injuries in CAPS pulls. He had heard that people suffered a lot of back injuries due to landing under parachute. That didn't match with my recollection, so that prompted me to review all of the injuries among the 46 survivable CAPS deployments. Here's the complete list:
- lower back compression fracture at Haverstaw, NY in 2005 (1 hospitalized, Ilan Reich’s CAPS save), where pilot had to break open the window with the egress hammer, go back in to retrieve his life vest, begin swimming to shore when first responders picked him up, then hospital informed him that he had a back fracture along with a brain tumor that had caused his blackout. Pilot walked out of the hospital the next day and was snowboarding six months later*
- lower back injuries at Indianapolis, IN in 2006, where passenger pulled 528’ AGL in a 100 knot spin just 4 seconds prior to impact, which was too low to fully deploy the chute (1 fatality, 3 hospitalized)
- lower back injuries at Siassconset, MA in 2007, where parachute snagged on communications tower and plane dropped (2 serious injuries, although the pregnant passenger gave birth to normal child)
- fractured ankle at Turricao, Italy in 2008, where rudder pedal cracked heel bone (1 fracture, 3 uninjured)
- strained shoulder muscles and cuts at Hamilton Island, Australia in 2009, where pilot used unorthodox and unapproved restraint by grabbing handles above cockpit doors (1 hospitalization)
- cut on forehead requiring stitches at Birmingham, AL in 2012, where passenger bumped her head
Otherwise, no injuries or only minor cuts and bruises for the other 86 people who survived a parachute landing.
So, are there a lot of back injuries — no. There are some, just six from the earliest CAPS deployments. But an overwhelming number of uninjured survivors.
Perhaps better awareness of the brace position, with your back pressed firmly against the seat back, has helped. Certainly, very few injuries since 2007 after CAPS save #11!!!
* Updated injury information from encouragement from comments below
I'd rather have a sore back than a funeral.
Facts always help. Good report.
Regarding Ilan's compression fracture, I can't speak to the severity of the injury, but I can report that 6 months after it I was snowboarding with Ilan at Lake Tahoe so the recovery was excellent!
Regarding "lower back compression fracture at Haverstaw, NY in 2005 (1 hospitalized, Ilan Reich’s CAPS save)" (Ilan's event), point of fact that he walked out of the hospital the next day.
Thanks to Curt and Gordon, I've updated the information about the first back injury at Haverstraw, NY. Pretty amazing story. The first responders approached in a boat and saw that the pilot was swimming okay. So they first rescued the couple of people who had swum out from shore and needed help, then they returned for the pilot and took him to the hospital.
Ilan's is an incredible story. Story on the accident and his life here:
I have tried to find the amazing post he wrote here some time afterwards but the POS search function here defeated me.
I believe that at least in part the back injury from the Haverstaw deployment on 2005, was due to the water landing. The landing gear wasn't able to help diminish the G forces.
@Don Kusenberger: Possibly that the injury was due to the impact with water, although we have had five more CAPS landings in water with no similar back injuries (Patterson, LA; Hamilton Island, Australia; New Orleans, LA; Andros Island, Bahamas; La Guarjira, Colombia). More likely cause of back injuries will be the position of the occupant not upright with their back pressed against the seat back.
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